Biomutant is one of those games that caught my eye because it looked nostalgic, as if it were designed after a bygone period of gaming. Knowing it was made by a small and new studio, I swallowed my expectations of a full price game coming from devs without history. Does this game give me the nostalgic tingle in my naughty bits?
…it never feels fluid or cohesive the way martial arts thematically should.
While I culturally appreciate the references towards kung fu, put the thought out of your mind that melee combat feels anything like martial arts. Melee combat is simply serviceable at best. Then comes throwing in the modern era’s need for shooting at things but put the thought out of your mind that gunplay feels anything like Call of Duty. It’s also serviceable at best. While the early game sees these mechanics operate very rough, some of the systems do start to grow on you in the late game, but it never feels fluid or cohesive the way martial arts thematically should. This serviceable level of quality continues into a large swath of familiar mechanics that you’ve likely seen before, and only serves to make you grumble once you realize you’re in for a LOT of gathering quests. That doesn’t mean there aren’t enjoyable moments, and it’s the fact that I pushed forward that I found that these moments are often just frolicking the surprisingly peaceful nature of the open fields and meadows. The game world shows a surprising diversity in this manner, and furthermore keeps boredom itself at bay with an also-surprising diversity in vehicles. While each are restricted to their respective biome, they serve a major tossup to gameplay, even if still only hitting that serviceable quality level. Continued exploration sees you peeing on poles (yes, you are actually marking your territory!), finding monster poo, some wonky climbing mechanics, and modding your equipment. Like the combat mechanics, you really only start crafting good gear towards the late game, and you end up being able to make some cool stuff like this full auto shotgun. And finally, core game world mechanics include a karma system that honestly seems geared towards light, and uniting tribes in which I can’t exactly tell how it pans out because I ended up accidentally persuading them all well before I hit the home stretch.
…I was still surprised by the size and scope of the open world…
Completing all of the main quests saw the credits roll in about 15 hours. Based on how my ending went, I’m sure there are multiple endings. But also based on the quality of gameplay, I’m rather disinterested in going back in, and the amount of sidequests I did made the game relatively easy to complete. Having said that, I was still surprised by the size and scope of the open world which is considerably large despite being made by a small team and is ripe with things to do for completionists. A lot of this extends to better late game equipment, but I can’t deny it seems a lot of work was put into trying to compete with the best of open worlds merely to justify the full $60 price tag. That does segue into the next section rather well, though.
…ruined by the need for your narrator to translate it.
Let’s start with the most important thing: turn the narrator down all the way. Thank me later. The game world itself is as aforementioned: rather diverse and frolicking through its fields feels a lot like reading a nostalgic, nature storybook with my eyes. Its scope is massive for such a small dev team and is quite accessible. This results in some interesting and decent monster designs as well. Unfortunately, despite this artistic beauty and solid world design, it demonstrates obvious drawbacks such as draw distance issues and an unstable, stuttering framerate. But then a real nostalgia tingle in my naughty bits happens: characters speaking Banjo-Kazooie gibberish! … Which is ruined by the need for your narrator to translate it. The gibberish is enjoyable, the narration is not. And that just leaves us with the story. You should know that it’s a story about dealing with the unknown futures of human waste, and while it’s delivered through martial arts inspired meaning and analogies, it never really rings home as anything other than one big warning sign.
…I’m coming to a conclusion that hurts me more than I want to admit…
If you’re into old-school games like Legend of Kay, then Biomutant might still entertain you enough to justify its full price. And therein lies why I’m coming to a conclusion that hurts me more than I want to admit: I can easily recognize that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears was put into this game in an attempt to harken back to what many consider the “good ol’ days” of gaming. The problem is that we’ve left those days behind for a reason, so a game that is really only hitting N64 level standards of gameplay quality doesn’t cut it anymore. While I found ways to derive fun from it, a lot of it was a chore. What we’ve got here is a game that works yet struggles to modernize in almost every way, and it is with a heavy heart that, despite my respect for hard work and effort, I must score the game objectively and harshly against its full $60 price tag.